Kickass Women

History is filled with women doing all kinds of kickass stuff.

Smart Girls

Watch these girls... they're going places!

Inspiration

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SRPS Entertainment

Some of my entertainment recommendations with awesome female characters and stars.

She's Crafty!

Some of the awesome items made by kickass women!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Oveta Culp Hobby - military trailblazer

During World War II, like the other branches of the military, the US Army started a program to recruit women into non-combat positions to free up more (white) men for the front lines. Houston newspaper editor and philanthropist Oveta Culp Hobby (January 19, 1905 – August 16, 1995) was tapped to be the first director of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women's Army Corps, or WACs), a position she used to promote the right of all women to serve their country during its time of need.



Prior to the war, she'd studied law, served as a clerk for the Texas Legislature's judiciary committee, and helped plan the 1928 Democratic National Convention in Houston. She eventually married the former governor of Texas and owner of the Houston Post-Dispatch, where she took a position on the editorial board and used her position to make changes in how the newspaper covered stories important to women and minorities. She also wrote a couple of books about her time working in state government, and was quite active in state and federal activities.

In 1941, while she was visiting Washington, D.C., she was asked to head a section on women's activities for the army. While the US had not officially entered the war yet, the army was actively drafting men into its ranks, and many women were also eager to find a way to serve. She studied the women's branches of the French and British armies and used their successes and failures as a guide for creating something similar for the US Army.

The women who served in the WAC were the first women other than nurses to wear U.S. Army uniforms and, thanks to her tireless work to integrate them within the military, they were the first women to receive military benefits through the GI Bill. She used her extensive knowledge of publicity and organization to promote and protect the importance of the women serving to the overall military goals.

Unlike the WAVES (the Navy's women's branch), the WAAC/WAC was integrated from the outset, although only at 10% representation of African American women (supposedly to match the level of representation in the overall population). Not only did Oveta Culp Hobby insist that black women be included in the corps, but she worked to make sure they were also invited to be part of the first class of officers.

She served as director for the duration of the war, ultimately achieving the rank of colonel, and was the first woman in the Army awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for efforts.

After the war, she returned to Houston and to her work with the newspaper and her philanthropic and political pursuits, continuing her support of civil rights issues as well as improving the lives of women across Texas.

You can listen to an interview with her from January 16, 1944 (starts at 10:00). It's interesting to note how important it is for her to address the fitness, the safety, and the domesticity of the WACs. Clearly she knew these were concerns many Americans had when thinking about women serving in the military, and they generally echo the same types of issues brought up in other areas such as women work in shipyards and munitions plants, and how women were treated during and after the war.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Abby Kelley Foster - radical woman

Abby Kelley Foster (January 15, 1811 – January 14, 1887) was an "ultra" abolitionist and feminist who withstood all manner of abuse in order to continue speaking out against injustice, and out-agitated many of the men and women we herald as leaders of the era.

"All the great family of mankind are bound up in one bundle. When we aim a blow at our neighbor’s rights our own are by the same blow destroyed. Can we look upon the wrongs of millions—can we see their flow of tears and grief and blood, and not feel our hearts drawn out in sympathy?"



Abby Kelley was born to Quaker farmers, but even from an early age she was aware of the inequality in how she was treated when compared to the boys she grew up with. As a young adult, she expanded her radial beliefs when she heard prominent anti-slavery advocate William Lloyd Garrison speak. She quit her position as a teach and immediately joined the Female Anti-Slavery Society, where she quickly earned herself the respect of many of her companions. She was elected to serve on a committee whose duty was to circulate petitions to gather support before they were to be sent to the federal government. In short order, she'd gained the support, and signatures, of half the women in town.

But she wasn't content to simply gather signatures. She was called to speak, even though there were strong social prohibitions against women speaking in public. Undaunted, she braved a torrent of abuse in order to make herself heard. She was routinely castigated in the press for her behavior, was at least once forcibly removed from a meeting of Orthodox Quakers because she refused to stop speaking, was regularly pelted with eggs and rotten produce (and worse), and was often forced to give her speeches in the outdoors because she was barred from speaking at organized events.

No matter. Instead of shutting her up, all that she endured simply worked to make her even more revolutionary in her beliefs. She began advocating for true equality between the races and between the genders. She influenced feminist foremothers like Susan B. Anthony, and then called them out when they refused to support the 15th amendment. Her work in Seneca Falls during the early abolitionist meetings set the foundation for the women's rights conventions that came afterward.

Her radicalism was applied to all aspects of her life. She was a strong proponent of "come-outerism" -- the idea that abolitionists could not stay in churches that did not condemn slavery. She encouraged anti-slavery activists to call out their churches and confront any clergy who did not forcefully stand on the side of abolition, and in every town where she spoke, she made it a point to publicly question their church leaders.

She married another radical abolitionist, Stephen Foster, and when they weren't busy traveling the country together speaking on the abolitionist and feminist speaking circuit, they worked on the farm they purchased, which they named "Liberty Farm." It was here where they raised their daughter Paulina, although Abby only took a few years off from organizing and speaking engagements. Contrary to the domestic ideal being pushed on middle class white women of the era, she was adamant that women could be mothers and wives and still have an active life outside the home.

Frederick Douglass wrote of Abby, "Her youth and simple Quaker beauty, combined with her wonderful earnestness, her large knowledge and great logical power bore down all opposition wherever she spoke, though she was pelted with foul eggs and no less foul words from the noisy mobs which attended us."



For further reading:

National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum: Abby Kelly Foster bio

Civil War Women: Abby Kelley post

New England Historical Society: "Abby Kelley Shakes Up Seneca Falls"

Ahead of Her Time: Abby Kelley and the Politics of Antislavery by Dorothy Sterling (Amazon)

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The Samurai's Daughter

The Samurai's Daughter
by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by‎ Stephen T. Johnson

I was not prepared for the power of this story of a brave young woman, Tokoyo, who embarks on an epic journey to save her father. Robert D. San Souci has a knack for finding fascinating folktales and this is no exception.

The heroine of this story is one of the diving women of Shima, but when her father is exiled to a distant island, she is determined to join him, even though it means she must travel through the mountains and across the ocean.

When she arrives on the island, she is immediately drawn into saving a young maiden from being eaten by a sea serpent. "I am the daughter of a samurai, and duty demands that I help the weak."She uses her diving skills to attack the monster, and after a brave battle she finally kills it and drags its carcass onto the beach.

The Samurai's Daughter (Amazon / Library) earned the Self-Rescuing Princess Society seal of approval for telling the story of Tokoyo, a fearless daughter of a warrior, who becomes one herself as she performs feats of bravery to protect the innocent. The illustrations by Stephen T. Johnson beautifully capture the imagination, bringing the story to life. Robert D. San Souci's writing is, as always, spellbinding, building excitement while simultaneously educating. This book is an excellent choice for early readers who love tales of adventure, as well as an enjoyable storytime or bedtime book for younger kids.

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Nobody Said Not to Go: The Life, Loves, and Adventures of Emily Hahn

Nobody Said Not to Go: The Life, Loves, and Adventures of Emily Hahn
by Ken Cuthbertson

Nobody Said Not to Go: The Life, Loves, and Adventures of Emily Hahn (Amazon / Library) is an interesting thing. It's a written biography of a woman who, over the course of her long career (she published more than 50 books), wrote practically non-stop about her life, her travels, and her experiences.

When I was asked to read and review the ebook release of
Nobody Said Not to Go, my first thought was, Why read a biography about her when I could just read her books? The only answer that satisfied me was the idea that a good biographer will provide much needed context for a modern audience while craftily reducing the stories into an overarching picture of their subject.

In that regard, Ken Cuthbertson excels at giving the reader a clear understanding of the social world Emily "Mickey" Hahn lived and moved in, and how exactly remarkable she was as a feminist trailblazer. Through exhaustive interviews with Ms. Hahn as well as a thorough reading of her body of work, Cuthbertson takes the juiciest bits from her autobiographical work and boils it down into the essence of Mickey Hahn's life -- her motivations, her mistakes, her successes, and her shortcomings (acknowledged and not) -- creating an engaging tale of her heroics and heartaches.

If you're looking for an inspirational biography that tells the story of a kickass woman, from childhood to retirement, you can't go wrong with Nobody Said Not to Go. If nothing else, it's a great overview to have on hand while reading one of her many other books about her time in Central Africa, China, and India, as well as her early life in the United States.

[Note: I was given a free copy of the ebook with the understanding that I would give an honest review. I have included Amazon Affiliate links in this post. I am exploring options for increasing my income from this blog to help me to continue to bring you the important stories of kickass women and girls. While I will always work to tell these stories, I have bills to pay. By all means feel free to look for these books elsewhere if you prefer. If you want to help support the work I do here, please consider using these links to shop.]

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Brave Margaret

Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure
by Robert D. San Souci,‎ illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

Young Margaret has always dreamed of what adventure may lie beyond the horizon as she tends to her cattle on her farm along the sea in western Ireland. So when a handsome prince appears one day asking to buy cattle to feed his ship's crew, she strikes a bargain to sell him all her cattle if he'll agree to take her with him.

No sooner do they depart but a sea serpent attacks the ship, demanding the crew send Margaret overboard to him. Unafraid, Margaret rows out fight the monster, defeating it handily with her ax. Unfortunately, the dying creature's death throes send the ship out to sea and Margaret is a castaway on strange shore where she meets an old woman with a new quest to fight a dragon. When her prince fails, it's up to Margaret to save him, and herself.

Robert D. San Souci's tale revives the old Irish story of Margaret and Simon, with healthy heaping of adventure and bravery, and just enough romance. The illustrations by Sally Wern Comport are vibrant and full of energy. I found myself going back to look at them long after I'd finished the story, captivated by their intensity. It's rare that I'd want to own artwork based on a picture book, but in this case I would love a series showing Margaret showing off her strength and power.

Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure (Amazon / Library) earned the Self-Rescuing Princess Society seal of approval for its tale of a brave young woman who pursues her dream and then fights against any foes who try to take it from her. It's a great book for early readers who love stories of adventure and bravery, as well as an excellent storytime choice for younger children.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Sukey and the Mermaid

Sukey and the Mermaid
by Robert D. San Souci,‎ illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Taking a scrap of a folktale of a young girl living among the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina, Robert D. San Souci crafts a powerful story about a brave young woman and how she finds an escape from a home ruled by her harsh stepfather when she is taken in by a beautiful mermaid

At first, the Mama Jo gives Sukey gold coins to give her family, but after being chased off by Sukey's stepfather, she only returns to carry a sick Sukey down to her home under the water where she would be safe.

For a while Sukey thrives under the sea, but loneliness for human companionship brought her back to the surface, now a grown woman with a treasure chest to afford her some comfort. And a warning from the mermaid to choose the right husband. Of course, Sukey's stepfather ruins things for her, and Sukey must return to the mermaid for one last favor.

Sukey and the Mermaid (Amazon / Library) earns the Self-Rescuing Princess Society seal of approval for telling the story of a young woman's adventure and the benevolent water goddess who shows her the power of true love and goodness. The illustrations by Robert Pinkney are stunningly beautiful, capturing the movement of the water and the life in and around it. The story is told in the language even the youngest readers can understand, and because it is so elegantly illustrated it makes a great storytime book for all ages.

[Note: I have included Amazon Affiliate links in this post. I am exploring options for increasing my income from this blog to help me to continue to bring you the important stories of kickass women and girls. While I will always work to tell these stories, I have bills to pay. By all means feel free to look for these books elsewhere if you prefer. If you want to help support the work I do here, please consider using these links to shop.]

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Young Guinevere

Young Guinevere
by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by‎ Jamichael Henterly

This is an excellent introduction to the legend of Guinevere as a young woman whose bravery saves her family and sets the stage for the future of Camelot.

Guinevere refused to stay locked up in her father's castle. She much preferred to roam the forest nearby, taking in the sights and sounds, learning about the animals, and exploring. It was her knowledge of the woods that saved them when a foreign army attacked them. The road out was blocked by the troops building siege engines, preparing to take the castle. Brave Guinevere was able to sneak around, through the wild wood where she fought a deadly beast, and find her way to King Arthur, requesting his aid to defend her home.

Young Guinevere (Amazon / Library) earned the Self-Rescuing Princess Society seal of approval for telling the story of this confident and courageous girl whose story is too often left out of the Camelot tales, or who is only remembered for her later story of betrayal and loss. Here we see her as a fresh-faced, daring young woman who knows her own capabilities and is willing to risk her own life to save the lives of others.

Robert D. San Souci brings his incredible story-telling skills to this often-forgotten part of the Camelot legend. The beautiful illustrations by Jamichael Henterly are reminiscent of the illustrated manuscripts of the British Isles from the middle ages, and perfectly capture the magical nature of the story and its characters. This book is an excellent choice for middle grade readers who crave adventure and heroic tales.

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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Betty Gillies - flight leader

Betty Gillies (January 7, 1908 – October 14, 1998) was a pioneering American aviatrix who worked to promote the role of women in aviation, and the first pilot to qualify for the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (which became the Women Airforce Service Pilots, WASPs) during World War II.



She began taking flying lessons in 1928, and earned her license in 1929. Later that year, she attended a meeting of other female pilots, where they formed The Ninety-Nines (so named because there were 99 charter members) led by flying pioneer Amelia Earhart. In 1930 she married Bud Gillies, vice president at Grumman Aircraft Corporation. And she continued flying, working to earn a commercial pilot's license.

In 1939, she served as president of the 99s and organized efforts to convince the Civil Aeronautics Authority to repeal its ban on women flying during pregnancy. This was a personal issue for Betty, as she was a young mother and anticipated having more children. If pregnant and postpartum women couldn't fly, they wouldn't be able to meet the required 10 hours of flight every six months to maintain their commercial license, forcing them to retake all their tests again after their child was born, at considerable expense.

When the US finally entered World War II, women pilots were ready to step in as needed. When Betty received a telegram from her friend and fellow pilot Nancy Love to join her new wartime program, the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, Betty left immediately. By this time she'd been flying for 14 years, with over 1400 flying hours and several aeronautical ratings, and she became the first pilot to qualify. When Nancy Love left to start another branch in Texas shortly thereafter, Betty was promoted to squadron leader assigned to the 2nd Ferrying Group, based out of Wilmington, Delaware, on the New Castle Army Air Base, where she served during the duration of the war.

Her job was to organize ferrying missions from the factories where the planes were assembled to air bases across North America where they would then be flown into service by male soldiers. This enabled more men to be sent overseas, while women would perform as many stateside duties as possible.

Ferrying was an often grueling job, requiring pilots to fly long distances in all kinds of weather, with only short breaks to refuel the planes and let the pilots rest. One mission required four legs between Maryland and Alberta, Canada. Betty's squadron ferried four fighters and were back on base two days later.

But there was adventure too. During this time she got to fly a variety of planes commissioned by the Navy. She was the first woman to fly the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter, and at the other end of the flying spectrum, she and Nancy Love were the first women to fly the Boeing B-17s Flying Fortress.

After the war, she and her family moved to California, where Betty operated a ham radio, connecting phone calls to ships in the Pacific, as well as communicating regularly with staff and Navy personnel in the Antarctic, and participating in the Navy MARS program (Military Auxiliary Radio System, where civilians assisted the military with communication efforts during times of emergency). She continued flying, and remained active in promoting the role of women in aviation. From 1953 to 1961, she served as the Chair of the All Woman Transcontinental Air Race, and in 1964 she served on the first Federal Aviation Administration Women's Advisory Committee.

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